Welcome back to How I Parent, where we get a glimpse into how the nation is raising their kids.
Kate Hoyle, a married mum from North London, retrained as a hypnotherapist after her two children, Eleanor 22 and Ethan 20, developed conditions that completely changed their pace of life.
‘Ethan was only 15 months old when he had a stroke and it completely rocked our world,’ she shares. ‘It’s extremely rare for this to happen in children and the causes are different from adults but still, to a large extent, they are unclear.
‘At first, he was unable to use his left side or even sit up unaided. Luckily, being so young, his brain was still developing and new neural pathways were formed.’
Ethan made a remarkable recovery, but when big sister Eleanor was around six, Kate noticed a shift in her behaviour.
‘Suddenly, she went from a contented child to experiencing strong emotions and was often angry and tearful,’ says Kate. ‘It took several years of having physical illnesses investigated before she was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression at just 12 years old.’
‘What followed were years of psychotherapy, psychiatric visits, antidepressants and a downward spiral into poor mental health and an eating disorder. Her school attendance dropped to around 35%, with all the added pressure that brings.’
In the early days, Kate had a high-flying corporate career in the City which meant she would leave the house at 5.30 am and work after returning in the evening.
‘I felt completely lost and alone when dealing with both Eleanor’s mental health issues and the emotional issues Ethan had as a result of his stroke,’ she says.
‘The pressure was always there because I felt I should be in two places at once, so in the end I took a local job so that I could be on hand for Eleanor.
‘Being an hour’s journey away was just too scary. Even then, when I had gone through the daily battle of trying to get her into school, I felt like I’d done a day’s work before I even started.’
Though Ethan’s health improved, Kate says the first five years of his life were still ‘particularly difficult’.
‘He had lots of physio and rehab because he had to learn to walk and talk again. Within that timeframe, there is always the chance of further strokes, especially with no definite cause,’ she says.
‘With Eleanor it was harder, because we really had no idea what the cause might be. As the years passed I also became really scared about what she might do.
‘We had a phrase we used which was “Are you safe to be by yourself?” and we both knew exactly what that meant.’
Considering her children’s needs, Kate realised she needed to shift her parenting style.
‘I started out doing everything I thought I ‘should’ be doing as a parent for Eleanor; attempting to get her into school, out in fresh air, meeting up with friends, and going to family events.
‘I was also accused of being over cautious with Ethan, but when you have a toddler with damaged arteries in their brain, falls and headaches take on a whole new dimension,’ she says.
She decided to change tactics and parent according to her daughter’s needs, not everyone else’s.
‘School and exams had to wait because a child cannot learn if they are in such an anxious state. We also had to be flexible and adapt to what she was capable of doing on any given day. This could be particularly frustrating for her younger brother.’
Though Eleanor was with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and tried a number of different therapies, the family felt at a dead end. Nothing seemed to help.
‘Poor Eleanor – as soon as I heard about something that had helped someone else I would drag her off to try it but nothing worked,’ Kate says.
But their luck changed when Kate stumbled across Marisa Peer, the pioneer of Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT), who posits that ‘no one should have to be stuck in therapy for years’.
‘Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) is all about discovering the root cause of an issue so that change can occur at a fundamental level,’ she says.
‘I found an RTT therapist who I thought would suit Eleanor and it had an incredible impact. The anxiety and depression became manageable and Eleanor started getting back to school and socialising.’
While doing RTT, Eleanor also had her final CAMHS appointment. The new psychiatrist asked lots of questions and said he thought she may have ADHD.
‘This is something that had never occurred to us, but suddenly everything began to make sense,’ Kate says.
‘The devastating news, though, was that because Eleanor was about to turn 18, there was nothing CAMHS could do for her in terms of an assessment and they discharged her.’
With ADHD waiting times at record high, Kate was grateful to have the financial means to go private, which resulted in an instant diagnosis of ADHD.
‘As we left that appointment, I asked Eleanor how she felt, being well aware that not everyone appreciates a ‘label’. She replied that she was relieved and said “Now I know what’s been wrong with me.”
‘My new role from there on became building her back up and realising that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with her. She had exceptional abilities but also many challenges which she would have to work out how best to manage.’
Kate was so impressed with RTT that she retrained as a hypnotherapist and now helps many parents and teenagers in similar situations.
Her daughter, Eleanor, has also created her own YouTube video explaining how ADHD impacts her life.
‘My advice to parents is to trust your instincts. You know your child better than anyone and if you think there’s something wrong, don’t ignore it,’ she says. ‘Take your concerns to your child’s school and GP as a first step and keep trying anything you think might help. You will need to be your child’s advocate, so keep fighting.’
She also recommends utilising online resources. ‘There are some wonderful charities you can seek advice from such as Young Minds and, if things get very serious, Papyrus. I’m also involved in the work of Streetwise, NexGen Wellbeing, Positiveo and The Stroke Association.
‘Every child deserves a level playing field and it is heartbreaking to see someone robbed of their childhood because of problems with their mental or emotional wellbeing.’
Kate feels that while there have been challenges, the family has come out stronger on the other side.
‘One of the most important traits children need today is resilience. I think that’s true of parents as well,’ she says.
‘Life will always be full of challenges and we need to be equipped to deal with them.
‘When you have battled through real adversity, it enables you to realise that daily life is mostly not worth getting stressed about.
‘We have been through so much as a family, I know we can face anything.’
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